How to use import in Node.js

July 6, 2019

Most code snippets and example use import(ES modules) instead of require (CommonJS) to import a module.

import express from "express";
// instead of
const express = require('express');

If you’re using babel, it will work in a Node.js environment. Without babel you’ll get an error like this:

Unexpected identifier import

(function (exports, require, module, __filename, __dirname) { import express from "express";

SyntaxError: Unexpected identifier
    at new Script (vm.js:79:7)
    at createScript (vm.js:251:10)
    at Object.runInThisContext (vm.js:303:10)
    at Module._compile (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:656:28)
    at Object.Module._extensions..js (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:699:10)
    at Module.load (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:598:32)
    at tryModuleLoad (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:537:12)
    at Function.Module._load (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:529:3)
    at Function.Module.runMain (internal/modules/cjs/loader.js:741:12)
    at startup (internal/bootstrap/node.js:285:19)

Starting with Node.js 12 there is an experimental flag, that enables ES modules in Node.js directly. For it to work you will have to

  • add "type": "module" to your package.json (example)
  • start your application with the --experimental-modules flag e.g. node --experimental-modules app.js (example)

Instead of adding the "type": "module" you could also name all of your JS files .mjs instead of .js.

The require syntax stops working if you do these changes!

Here is a full example app, that includes the necessary changes using the "type": "module" in the package.json

This works with Node.js starting with version 12. Here you can find the official documentation.

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